Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

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Nothing is more dangerous than a sequel to a wildly successful awful movie, because the artisans involved have to preserve the franchise, which means honoring the original formula as if it were a cure for cancer. In the case of Scooby-Doo—both the dreadful 2002 live-action hit and the animated series that inspired it—the formula sets into motion a fool-proof, market-tested Hanna-Barbera theory: Kids will watch anything, and, as a bonus, they may even grow up feeling nostalgic about crappy Saturday-morning cartoon shows.

The principal cast and crew members return for Scooby-Doo 2, which magnifies the CGI torture tenfold by resurrecting the show's entire catalog of costumed foes to go along with its flatulent canine hero. That the film represents a marginal improvement over the first one is a credit to Seth Green, whose dry, self-effacing charm stands in sharp relief to the ADD hysteria that swirls around him. Green plays the curator of the new Coolsonian Criminology Museum, which honors the Monsters, Inc. gang (Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Fred, Sarah Michelle Gellar's Daphne, Matthew Lillard's Shaggy, Linda Cardellini's Velma, and Scooby) with a display of foiled faux-ghosts past. When the old monsters—the Pterodactyl Ghost, the Black Knight Ghost, Tar Monster, Miner 49er, and others—come to life, the Scooby sleuths compile a suspect list that includes past schemers Peter Boyle and Tim Blake Nelson, TV reporter Alicia Silverstone, and the shifty Green.

With a few minor tweaks, such as replacing a cameo by Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath with an appearance by the Velvet Teddy Bear himself, Ruben Studdard, Scooby-Doo 2 basically repackages the same product—another lesson learned from Hanna-Barbera, no doubt. Screenwriter James Gunn slips in a few winking references for stranded adults (Shaggy: "They're having a montage in there without us"), the film is geared more than ever at the kids, which ensures plenty of potty humor. The poor fire-breathing Miner 49er, for one, meets a combustible end when he faces a gaseous Scooby. Including an entire series' worth of villains clutters up the already effects-heavy action, but it comes with a possible silver lining: Exhausting all the monsters in the franchise may stop it from continuing.